This is the first installment of our "Volunteer Spotlight Series." In each installment, we will feature 2016 HALO Volunteer Awardees to highlight their unique impact and experience as volunteers, as well as the volunteer programs they serve.
Janet Wall, Foothill Unity Center Volunteer Awardee
What do you do at Foothill Unity Center?
I am the Volunteer Co-Chair of the annual Back to School event where over 1,000 children are furnished with clothing, underwear, socks, backpacks, school supplies, shoe vouchers, haircuts, vision screening and dental screening; I am a committee member of the Holiday Distribution where over 1500 children are given 2 toys, 2 articles of clothing and two books; I am on the Capital Campaign committee; I have been on the strategic planning committee and I have worked on the Mobile Dental Clinic.
When and why did you first get involved with Foothill Unity Center?
I first became involved with Foothill Unity Center when I retired in 2011. I got involved because I knew they had a food bank and thought it would be a good place to volunteer my time.
What motivates you to stay involved at Foothill Unity Center?
I am motivated to stay involved because I believe in the mission of Foothill Unity Center, I admire the way the staff and volunteers treat their clients with such dignity and I feel I am able to lend operational and technical expertise to help them work smarter not harder.
What is your favorite memory of volunteering with Foothill Unity Center?
My favorite memories all involve the look on the clients faces: The children when they see all that is available to them at Back to School event and the parents when they see the toys, clothing and books for their children at the Holiday Distribution.
What has surprised you most about working with Foothill Unity Center?
What do you wish other people knew about Foothill Unity Center? What has surprised me most is how hard the staff works and how dedicated they are to their clients. I am also surprised by the lack of technology that could make them even more efficient and able to better serve their clients - and how willing they are to adapt to new things when presented with ways to be more efficient. I wish others knew about all the services that Foothill Unity Center offers beyond food. Foothill Unity Center is an invaluable resource that so many people don't know about. If more knew about it, I believe more would support it.
What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with Foothill Unity Center?
I always tell anyone looking for a place to volunteer to check out Foothill Unity Center. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available so there is something for everyone. I tell people that they will get far more out of the Foothill Unity Center experience than they will give. It is easy to get friends to join the events as they see how much joy I get from my experience with Foothill Unity Center.
For more information about volunteering at Foothill Unity Center, please visit foothillunitycenter.org/get-involved/other-ways-to-help/
Brandon Smith, human-I-T Volunteer Awardee
What do you do at human-I-T?
I am proudly managing outreach to prospective individual and business technology donors in order to repurpose their unwanted technology to help those in need. Our recipients include low-income families, veterans, persons with disabilities, and qualifying non-profits.
When and why did you first get involved with human-I-T?
I was first drawn to human-I-T when I had realized the tremendous gap between those that have access to technology and those that do not. On one side, it is a nuisance for a business to have older computers sitting around after an upgrade. On the other hand, you have low-income students that cannot do a history project because they do not have the internet or a disabled adult that cannot apply for a job because they do not have easy access to a computer. It only makes sense to connect our global e-waste problem with such an obvious solution.
What motivates you to stay involved at human-I-T?
The people we serve is what keeps me motivated here at human-I-T. Each individual item we take in is a step towards helping someone get a computer for the first time, and that keeps me going each and every day. Not only are we serving our recipients, but we are providing a valuable business service and keeping these items out of landfills. It's a 'Win' all the way around!
What is your favorite memory of volunteering with human-I-T?
My favorite memory at human-I-T is a memory I will never forget. It was my first distribution with human-I-T when we were handing out desktops to low-income families at a housing project in Los Angeles. There was one particular little girl that had burst into tears when she was handed her very first computer. That moment had left an impact on me that will always remind me to look out for my community and to give back whenever possible.
What has surprised you most about working with human-I-T?
What do you wish other people knew about human-I-T? The greatest surprise I've encountered at human-I-T is that most people do not know that repurposing technology is an option! Many still believe in the stigma that recycling is the best option when at the same time, hundreds of thousands of those less fortunate here in the US do not have home access to the internet. I wish others knew how easy, cost-effective, and impactful it is to repurpose their old technology versus grinding up recycling it.
What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering with human-I-T?
I would first suggest that they come to a distribution event to see first-hand as our efforts make an impact on the local community. After they see the impression we are making, there are several great opportunities to volunteer here at human-I-T. Whether they are looking to break into IT and work with our processing and refurbishment teams or see how our donation outreach or social media are managed, we welcome everyone to join our growing family.
For more information about volunteering with human-I-T, please visit human-i-t.org/volunteer/